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Judy Haiven: A victory for one! Housing authority finds new place for senior who fled bedbugs-infested apartment

Gary Aitchison. Photo Judy Haiven

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Gary Aitchison was both lucky and not so lucky. He was lucky that I just happened to overhear him talk to the driver on a city bus about the bedbugs in his seniors’ apartment. He was not so lucky to have had to pay rent of $482 a month to live with bedbugs for more than seven years.  

He was lucky to have had the resolve to refuse to go home one day, and go to a hotel to stay. He was lucky to have found a hotel with a sympathetic manager who allowed him to stay – until he could find a suitable, non-infested apartment. He was not so lucky to have ended up in the hospital’s emergency twice with a panic attack and extreme distress because bedbugs wandered over his body at night time.

See also: Bedbugs drive senior out of his public housing apartment

Finally, after three months of living in a Halifax hotel, Aitchison got word that there was a bachelor apartment available for him at Northwood Towers.   

“This is what I wanted all along,” he said. 

After Gary Aitchison’s story was published in the Nova Scotia Advocate it took Metro Regional Housing Authority less than a month to find him a suite. 

This after he complained about the bedbugs for seven years and management at the Gordon B. Isnor manor didn’t take the situation seriously. Sure, they sprayed a couple of times, but the bedbugs returned– not just to Aitchison’s apartment but to the hundreds of other units on 16 floors.

As the person who helped expose the way older adults in Nova Scotia are housed in rent-subsidized manors, I’m grateful for all your interest.  

More than 12,000 people read the article. Many of you wrote encouraging emails to Aitchison; some of you offered to send him money so he could pay for his hotel and future apartment; others excoriated the Nova Scotia government. 

While it is a big victory that Gary Aitchison won the right to live in a bedbug-free apartment at Northwood, what about the others who live in Isnor and other manors in Halifax? A victory for one is not a victory.  It’s merely the first round. 

There may be a tenants’ association for your building.  Raise hell. And if there’s no tenants’ association, form one. Ask me how. My email is equitywatchns@gmail.com

Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, an organization that fights discrimination, bullying and racism in the workplace.  Contact her at equitywatchns@gmail.com

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

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  1. Hi! Judy, IT WAS NOT THE REGIONAL HOUSING THAT HELPED ME FIND A PLACE AT NORTHWOOD MANOR! IT was the HELP OF the social workers at the hospital emergency department, you & others.

  2. I would just like to add that the Dalhousie School of Social Work Community Clinic also helped Gary. Metro Regional Housing orovides housing geared to income. There is an overwhelming need for housing for all incomes in the Halifax region.

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